How Does VAR Work? Everything You Need to Know About Video Assistant Referee

It has been a monumental rise for Brighton and Hove Albion over the last decade. In January 2008, they were knocked out of the FA Cup at the third round by League Two strugglers Mansfield Town in front of 5,857 people at Withdean. Ten years on and they have climbed into the Premier League elite, moved into a shiny new stadium and become an example of a successful modern-day club.

Brighton's story, their great ascent, will be remembered for years to come, but this week their name will be written into the history books for a different reason. When Crystal Palace travel to the south coast to face Chris Hughton's Brighton in this year's FA Cup third round, Monday, January 8, 2018 will be marked as the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) as part of a trial agreed between The FA, EFL and Premier League.

The role of the 300 cameras around the AmEx Stadium will be more than just to satisfy the fans watching from home, but to provide accuracy when uncertainty arrives during the game. So, how will VAR actually work? Here, Newsweek takes a look into the plans and its current success elsewhere.

When will VAR be used?

There will be no stopping the game to check a foul throw; no double-checking whether it was a corner or goal-kick. Only four situations will see the Video Referee called into play: uncertainty surrounding goals, penalties, straight red cards and in the case of mistaken identity (remember when referee Andre Marriner sent off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2014?). Importantly, VAR will only be activated when there is a "clear and obvious error."

So what actually happens?

Operators of the VAR system will have until the game restarts to inform the referee of a review. The referee will then indicate a review by signalling a square with his hands. Supporters and television viewers will not be shown the VAR. The referee is then able to take the advice from the operator or decide to review the decision themselves, which will be done in a zone near the touchline.

Video Assistant Referee
Uzbek referee Ravshan Irmatov, center, at Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi, December 9. Referee Irmatov checks the VAR during the FIFA Club World Cup. GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty

But won't it cause long delays?

A review is expected to take between 30 and 40 seconds. Should the referee choose to review the decision from his own monitor, this is expected to reach around two minutes. Evidence from leagues that currently have VAR in operation suggest that it is called upon once in every three games on average.

Who is in charge of the VAR?

For this trial game, referee Neil Swarbrick will be based 55 miles north of the AmEx, in a west London studio. He will be watching around a dozen cameras as well as the four in the goals used for goal-line technology. Swarbrick will be assisted by Peter Kirkup.

What do the players know about it?

All of the above and a little more. Players have been warned that they will be at risk of a booking if they try and urge the referee to use VAR, and have been told to play to the whistle.

So the VAR will have the final decision?

No. As always, the referee will make the final call.

But it will end any controversy and uncertainty, right?

Wrong again, I'm afraid. Referees chief Mike Riley has said that the technology can never be "100 percent perfect" and insists that it is "going to take us time" to get it right.

And finally, after this game will we see VAR in all games?

That remains unclear. The Premier League will decide at the end of the season whether it wants to adopt the Video Referee. It will be used in both legs of the Carabao Cup semifinal between Chelsea and Arsenal as well as in the final in February.